Suffering injuries in build-ups to important games and tournaments had telling effects on the nonetheless glorious career of Ike Shorunmu with the Nigerian national team.
Shorunmu, however, braved the odds to make a spectacular show at the AFCON 2000 jointly hosted by Nigeria and Ghana.
Though the Super Eagles came quite close to winning what could have been the third AFCON title for Nigerian then, they were beaten to the top prize by the Lions of Cameroon.
Twenty-years after this painful loss, Shorunmu posits that he was perhaps not destined to win Africa‘s biggest soccer title as a player as he had to wait 13 years later as coach to win the coveted trophy.
In this interview, Shorunmu recounts that sad moment at the National Stadium in Lagos and also speaks on other issues bordering on the Super Eagles as well as limitations for goalkeepers
PT How was life like without football during pandemic lockdown?
Shorunmu: What can I say, the damage has been done already, all we need to do is manage ourselves, change the routine of life and take it the way it comes. We thank God, we are still kicking.
PT: You seem to have kept a low profile after you left the national team in 2015.
Shorunmu: After leaving Super Eagles in 2015, I was engaged with Ifeanyi Ubah FC alongside Dan Amokachi. But as you know, there are lots of problems involved when you handle Nigerian clubs that are solely owned in by an individual. The way the club was run is totally different from our expectations.
We couldn’t cope with the system there and had to opt-out. In 2016, I joined Ikorodu United but another problem cropped up. In 2017, I joined Sunshine Stars of Akure alongside Austin Eguavoen. After a brief spell with the Akure, I decided to hold back for now simply because I couldn’t cope with the way clubs are run in this part of the world. I am still into sports but I had gone into other ventures to feed my family.
PT: The general view of Nigerian is that your generation of coaches tend to choose different paths rather than encourage synergy when foreign offers come. What is your take on this?
Shorunmu: Don’t misunderstand the philosophy of coaching because every coach has his own setup. Amuneke worked with Amadi when he was U-17 national team manager and you should expect them to have developed that understanding and synergy.
I was not surprised when he picked Amadi as one of his assistants when he bagged Tanzania job. You don’t mix friendship with the business if really you want to succeed in whatever you do. Amuneke is still my friend, he spoke with me from Egypt recently.
PT: You once narrated how you were bullied by your elder brothers to always stay in goal in most of those street football games simply because you were the youngest then. But who really inspired your goalkeeping career?
Shorunmu: Believe me the two guys that inspired my career are Best Ogendengbe and Peter Rufai. I am not a flamboyant goalkeeper but Rufai usually turns me on with his grip on the ball and his footwork while Ogedengbe impressed me with his styles in goal. He puts up lots of antics to outwit opponents. These two personalities really inspired my choice of becoming a goalkeeper.
PT: Who among the top goalkeepers in the world inspired you most?
Shorunmu: I will go for Schmeichel because of his charisma and ability to lead. The way he communicates and relates with his colleague after every game stands him out too. I met him three times in Europe during my active days and I was impressed with the way he relates with his teammates.
PT: AFCON 2000 was one of many heartbreaks you had in your active days. It was like the end of the world after Nigeria lost out to Cameroon in that penalty shoot-out
Shorunmu: Look, you have to believe in your destiny. I think I was not destined to win it as a player back then but it feels so good to win AFCON as a coach. It was even more interesting to have won it outside the country alongside Stephen Keshi.
PT: It has been said that former Super Eagles goalkeeper, Vincent Enyeama, is likely to lead the next generation of goalkeeper trainers. Do you agree with this school of thought?
Shorunmu: Life is all about change. I have done my part in the national team and I expect everyone to play their parts too. Vincent was a good goalkeeper during his active days and he has a good personality. Besides, the national team is not for one man, it’s all about doing your bit and pass on the baton before moving on. Why not if he chose to impart that wealth of knowledge into upcoming goalkeepers. I wish him all the best.
PT: How can Super Eagles goalkeepers get better in the coming years?
Shorunmu: They need to be very careful when making a decision on their future. You need luck to succeed as a goalkeeper. The goalkeeping department is a lucky one in that if you’re lucky to make the right decision in the areas of transfer, the sky will be the limit in your career.
PT: How far do you think Super Eagles can go under Rohr?
Shorunmu: We saw them at the last Nations Cup. We know how far the team can go if they find their feet. But we need to accept the fact that defeats help you move ahead in life because of its lesson. Lots of lessons were learnt at the tournament, which without mincing words must be improved on. Let’s just keep believing in them and hope they get better and give us the desired results.
PT: On a final note, why is it always difficult for goalkeepers to win Ballon D’or and other annual awards?
That department is quite a tough one. You must have won many laurels both at club level and national teams before you can be considered for such awards. Besides, football is all about scoring goals. It will be very tough for any goalkeeper to win top awards.
PT: Thank you for your time.